Like everyone else who has a company that can work from home, the Chambers hurriedly moved from a physical office to a virtual organisation in March. Our thoughts were on the immediate problems of making sure that staff were deployed with clear responsibilities and that the organisation was able to function and provide a relevant service to Staffordshire businesses.

We have certainly all learned a lot in the past few weeks, especially in terms of how we work as a team. I personally soon became acutely aware that the way in which I communicated to my team would need to reflect these circumstances.

For many working at home has presented tough challenges. Having, partners and children at home or having to suddenly take on the role of teacher or carer whilst working to tight daily deadlines is not something many of us had prepared for. Hopefully, the team know that I am here to support them and they in turn seem to be genuinely supporting each other.

We have a daily management meeting and a fortnightly staff meeting on Zoom which is open to the entire team, including furloughed staff. I hope that I am open and transparent and try to address all staff issues, sent to me as questions prior to the meeting, as not everyone feels comfortable with raising questions in the meeting and having these beforehand ensures anonymity.

It is obviously important to avoid futured absolutes or to raise false hopes and I try to be as open, transparent and realistic as I can. We do not know when the phased return to work will begin and neither can we know the full extent of the damage to the economy, and what knock on effects this will have on our individual business model.

It has been fantastic to see how people in the Chambers team have risen to the challenge. I am very proud of my team and I know that we will come out of this even stronger.

If you would like help and guidance with anything discussed here please get in touch by emailing info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

For all enquiries, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002. We also have a weekday daily Twitter hour from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat

A total of £16m in government funding will help to support immediate pressures on city council services during the coronavirus outbreak.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has received the funding in two phases from government, but has warned that the money will not be enough to cover all of the work that needs to be done.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “The coronavirus outbreak is a national emergency and it will clearly have a significant financial impact for a considerable period of time.

“We have been modelling the impact of this on our finances from the beginning and have a very clear understanding of the pressures it is bringing – for example through increased demand for support and loss of income.

“We have been working with government, feeding this information through and are regularly talking to them and flagging the issues for what this means in Stoke-on-Trent.

“We are grateful for the financial contributions government have made to date. While these will not be enough to cover all that we need to, they are helping us to meet the immediate pressures we are facing.

“The vast majority of this funding will be used to help support forecast costs in adult social care services, children and family services and housing services, including the costs of the direct response to the coronavirus outbreak, lost income from services that have closed and potential recovery costs.”

Meanwhile, council waste collection crews are empting 33,000 bins and visiting 750 streets across the city each day, during the coronavirus outbreak.

Council teams are collecting an average of 13,200 grey bins containing household waste, 9,000 blue bins of recyclable waste and 8,600 brown bins of garden waste each day. Last week alone, crews cleared 215 tonnes a day of grey bin rubbish and 119 tonnes of recycling waste from households across the city.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “Waste collection is a major logistical operation, and one that we have worked hard to keep going throughout the coronavirus outbreak. We have been able to keep delivering the grey and blue bin collections through the five weeks of the lockdown so far, and I am really pleased that we are able to do a ‘sweep’ of brown garden waste bins this week and next, to help to ease the burden on households.

“Our crews are visiting around 750 streets every day, and each binman walks an average of 12-15 miles during their daily round. We have redeployed workers from other council services that have temporarily closed due to the coronavirus, so for example, leisure centre staff have been helping to empty bins and gritting truck drivers have retrained to help drive waste wagons.

“I know residents are really grateful for the work the crews are doing, and it really warms the heart when I hear of the thank you messages and treats that have been left by so many caring and thoughtful households across the city. The teams deserve all the credit they get, they are doing a fantastic job, and they are very grateful for the support they are receiving from communities.”

The two week ‘sweep’ of brown bin collections will continue tomorrow (Thursday), with crews visiting more than 300 streets in Brindley Ford, Burslem, Chell, Chell Heath, Fegg Hayes, Goldenhill, Packmoor, Pittshill, Sandyford, Tunstall. Unfortunately today (Wednesday), crews were not able to collect from Sneyd Street, Hazelwood Close and Sneyd Wood View, and these streets will now be collected first thing on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the council has joined with Voluntary Arts England to administer micro-grants of up to £200 to help not-for-profit creative groups in the city share their creativity with people feeling isolated during the coronavirus outbreak as part of #GetCreativeAtHome.

The grants are available from today until Monday 4 May on the Voluntary Arts website – www.voluntaryarts.org.

#GetCreativeAtHome is a national creative campaign that is being championed by partners including Arts Council England and the BBC to highlight some of the amazing participatory creative activities that are being developed across the country to help people to express themselves during this time of unprecedented change.

Successful applicants will be awarded up to £200 to transform their usual creative community activities into remotely accessible projects, such as live online events, video tutorials, podcasts and posted creativity packs.

Councillor Brown said: “At this extremely challenging time, creativity is more important than ever; to unite people, support good mental health and wellbeing and maintain vital connections with others

“The micro-grants are a fantastic way to support our communities during this pandemic. Not-for-profit creative groups can provide a huge boost to people who feel isolated and those who are struggling with mental health issues. The projects can also help to connect communities at a time when we may feel distant from our friends, family and communities. We’d encourage people to get involved and help our city to come together through creativity.”

Each of the funded projects will take place from 10 May to 31 May and will be advertised on the national Get Creative website – www.getcreativeuk.com, as well as at www.visitstoke.co.uk. The activities and events will also be promoted across various social media channels using the hashtag #GetCretiveatHome and #MyStokeStory.

Meanwhile, there are two days left for voluntary sector organisations to apply for a city council grant scheme. The authority has pledged £100,000 of financial support to community groups and voluntary organisations who are providing critical help to those impacted by coronavirus living in the city. The money will also help to ensure that organisations that have seen usual funding or fundraising streams reduce due to the coronavirus still access additional financial support.

Applications must be submitted by 4pm on Friday 1 May, via www.stoke.gov.uk/voluntaryfund. So far, the authority has received 35 completed forms.

There are 371 registered charities in the city and an estimated further 3,000 voluntary or community organisations. These organisations and groups employ staff and provide volunteering opportunities, as well as contributing to the local economy. A total of 33 per cent of registered charities in Stoke-on-Trent have a turnover of less than £10,000 a year.

There is no maximum limit for loan or grant applications although bids for more than £3,000 will require further evidence and be subject to additional scrutiny and ongoing monitoring. Some organisations that already receive city council funding will also be able to redirect unspent funds to support delivery of Covid-19-related support services.

For more information and advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit Public Health England:

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ and the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated.

For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.

A Keele student collecting essential toiletries to help vulnerable people across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent has received over 3,300 donations.

Victoria Black, a final year Children’s Nursing student, set up The Keele Beauty Bank in 2018 after being inspired by her placement on a paediatric ward during her course. Here, Victoria helped care for a family and saw first hand the positive impact that being able to maintain a basic level of hygiene can have.

According to In Kind Direct, a charity that distributes consumer goods to UK charities working in the UK and overseas, 37% of the nation are going without or cutting down on hygiene essentials due to a lack of funds.

Victoria set up donation points across the University campus and Clinical Education Centre, which she collected every month and donated to local charities including the Gingerbread centre, Arch (women’s refuge centre) and local Trussell Trust foodbanks. To ensure the scheme is sustainable, donors are encouraged to give unwanted gifts and items that would expire before individuals could use them, along with donations purchased for the purpose of the scheme.

Victoria has donated over 900 items in the past few weeks alone to help vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.

Victoria said: “I didn’t realise the impact this small idea could have. Every time I take the donations to one of the various centres, I am always amazed by the reaction I receive – their gratitude is overwhelming.

“In the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, foodbanks were crying out for items to try and cope with their oversubscribed service. Following another collection, I took the items I had received down to the centre and the woman was moved to tears; not by the quantity, but by the inclusion of hard to get items such as hand soap and toilet rolls.

“I cannot take the credit for the success of this scheme. It is only as successful as the people who are willingly filling up the boxes.”

Simon Boxall, Chair of Trustees of the Newcastle Staff Foodbanks, said: “We’d like to thank Victoria for her donations. There is a big difference between just existing and feeling alive. When someone has access to hygiene and beauty products, that person feels valued. That person knows, in the words of the advert, “you’re worth it”. And a person who feels like that is capable of doing great things. A donation from you could be life changing.”

JCB’s ‘Food for our Communities’ initiative today served up a major milestone as the 10,000th meal was despatched from the company’s kitchens for those in need in Staffordshire.

Since the launch of the scheme – the idea of Carole Bamford, wife of JCB Chairman Lord Bamford – catering staff at the World HQ in Rocester have been busily preparing cottage pies, macaroni cheese and bolognese dishes for disadvantaged families and individuals across the region during the Coronavirus crisis.

Today the 10,000th meal was cooked and despatched from the JCB kitchen – just a month after the initiative started. So far, the team has used around two tonnes of potatoes, more than one tonne of minced beef and almost half a tonne of both pasta and onions to prepare the dishes.

In India – where JCB has factories in Delhi, Pune and Jaipur – the scale of the initiative is even greater and staff there have now prepared a staggering 100,000 meals.
Carole Bamford, wife of JCB Chairman Lord Bamford, said: “I’m very proud of all the work the teams in the UK and India are undertaking. Their efforts are making a real difference to the lives of so many people in our communities.”

Thousands of the meals made in Staffordshire are being distributed across Stoke-on-Trent by the Burslem-based Hubb Foundation, to children and families in need across the city.

Founder Carol Shanahan said: “You cannot underestimate the impact the JCB ‘Food for our Communities’ initiative is having on families in our city. Those receiving the food are just so very grateful that companies like JCB are stepping in to help at this time. It’s simply amazing.”

Since launch, the project has been expanded to include sandwiches and so far, more than 2,000 have been made for distribution to the homeless in Stoke-on-Trent and for inclusion in food parcels for vulnerable people in the Uttoxeter area. JCB is also supplying St. Michael’s Church Support Group in Rocester with 100 meals a week for villagers who are in need.

JCB Chef Alastair Rowe said: “It is very rewarding for the whole team to be involved in this project. We have had some wonderful feedback which shows our communities really do appreciate what JCB is doing at this time.”

As well as providing thousands of meals, JCB has also donated vital PPE to front line workers and JCB and its employees have volunteered to produce facemasks for the NHS. Inspired by these efforts, JCB-sponsored athletes, slalom canoeist Adam Burgess and triple jumper Ben Williams, took on a marathon weight lifting challenge and have so far raised more than £2,400 for the Royal Stoke Hospital.

JCB’s kitchens in Staffordshire are being supported with the provision of food from organic farms at Daylesford in Gloucestershire. Daylesford – founded by Carole Bamford – has supplied organic beef mince to the project, with staff working seven days a week to support the food aid initiative.

In the UK, JCB is also working with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is distributing JCB meals to vulnerable adults and children across the city.

Architecting the Digital Future

The power of digital infrastructure in enabling and supporting societies during a time of crisis has been seen on a global scale and the current COVID-19 pandemic has perhaps led to a watershed moment where we will not return to previous practices or ways of working life. We may soon ask, “Why didn’t we do this before?

2020 will undoubtedly be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic – for the extremely sad and heart-breaking loss of lives, the deep & far-reaching global socio-economic impact and the year when, for the first time in many people’s lives, normality changed. The lockdown enforced by Governments across the world to tackle the spread of the virus confined people to their homes, limited or prohibited freedom of movement & travel and consequently affected virtually all aspects of personal and work-related life. Crucially, it affected one of our most fundamental human needs – that of social contact, and the fundamental need for engaging with the activity of work to earn a livelihood.

‘Digital’ has played a critical role in fulfilling these needs through, for example, enabling telepresence – allowing people to remotely connect, communicate, access services and continue with their work during these difficult and challenging times.

Through telepresence, dialogue and relationships have been maintained or formed and the emotive essence of that dialogue has been strengthened through visual contact through screens that goes far beyond just the written or spoken word. Social distancing and isolation have been transformed into a sense of belonging, community, and shared social experiences through the digital ether where we have become virtual neighbours and friends. Telepresence has changed how we work. Work is no longer a place that we necessarily go to – it is what we do. New patterns that deviate from traditional temporal and spatial frames associated with work have been realised. Ones that allow flexibility of working according to qualitative time, not clock time and where spaces have morphed – where places of domestic residence have become places of work.

Flexible working, including telework is not new and indeed it has been established practice in many organisations for some time, but the current COVID-19 situation will spark a new deeper realisation regarding the power of digital and that the architecting and construction of work, in the broad traditional form & sense as we know it, is somewhat archaic.

Telepresence is a good example to illustrate the power of digital. It is something that many of us will have experienced in recent weeks and it demonstrates the potential of digital as a transformative and disruptive force that can permeate through all areas of life – in personal, social and commercial contexts and across ages, genders, cultures and location.

Thus, the power of digital infrastructure in enabling and supporting societies during a time of crisis has been seen on global scale and the current COVID-19 pandemic has perhaps led to a watershed moment where we will not return to previous practices or ways of working life. We may soon ask, “Why didn’t we do this before?”

The paradigm shift of decorporealisation of social & organisational systems and infrastructures provides an opportunity to architect the future and next-generation systems. What will the future look like and how will we construct this? We can, perhaps, start with the end in mind – a vision of a hyperconnected world, rich with digital innovations that meet the needs of future society. A future in which accessible low-friction digital systems and services that enhance quality of life and experiences are seamlessly and effectively delivered. A future in which engagement with work and leisure is based around individual qualitative spatial and temporal constructs and personalised needs. Whilst a vision of the future may be digital, it also needs to be human-centric – the true power of digital is the transformative value it yields for people.

Architecting and building that future requires harmonising creativity, culture and technology. It provides opportunities for cross-sector collaboration to create innovative product & service innovations and it cannot be based on siloed thinking. Digital is a multi-faceted positive force which results in macro-level impact including changing human behaviours, creating new ecosystems, place-shaping, disrupting industries and catalysing the development and deployment of next generation solutions in the spectrum of application areas. To generate that positive force, a unified innovation flow and fluent dialogue between sectors is required.

What we need is smart cross-sector collaboration that moves away from locked-in thinking and enables agile adaptation to market forces in the digital economy. This form of collaboration and the systemic & intelligent interweaving of contributing mindsets to yield digital congruence is crucial – it is not bricks and mortar that will build the future, but collective intellectual capital arising from creative mindsets and partnerships.

As organisations are responding and adapting to the current situation resulting from the virus, they will also be charting their future. This will be against the backdrop of global economic recovery, an increase in the pace and unpredictability of challenges and potential large-scale systemic changes in organisational thinking and practice. In order to meet these challenges in the new networked society, there will be a need to foster a culture of co-creation where creativity and innovation is the norm – one which equips organisations of the future with resilience, skills and the capability to respond to internal and external changes in the digital knowledge economy in an effective and agile manner. Capability and agility are important – as we architect and move into the future it is likely that new competitive markets and new opportunities that are accessible to new entrants in a low-friction manner will emerge.

The need for co-aligning the forces shaping the digital future is likely to occupy a higher place on the agenda as part of a necessary evolution on the digital continuum in the modern digital economy. The human-centric aspect of this is likely to emerge as the driving one – placing people at the heart of innovation.

In the future, when we look back to 2020, we will reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, the devastation it caused and how we responded to this as one unified global society. We will reflect on how norms were altered, how we fulfilled our human needs through digital infrastructure and, how from the ashes of the experience and impact, a new phoenix arose marking the dawn of a new digital era.

Khawar Hameed

Khawar Hameed is Founder & Principal Consultant in Digital Innovation at Artisans of Innovation and Visiting Professor of Digital Innovation at Birmingham City University, UK.

I can not stress enough the importance of good governance as a basis for great management and the pandemic and subsequent lockdown will have laid bare any holes in a company’s governance. As we move to the next big challenge – the relaxation of restrictions, however it comes – businesses will be needing to plan what happens next and it is therefore a good time to fix those holes.

Good governance is not just about making decisions. It’s about having some challenge to how you think – as the owner, manager, decision maker – and getting a different view that makes us think about what we are doing and how we want our businesses to work in the future.

Having someone from outside your organisation who can help you to consider the risks and opportunities, your current and future operations, what is achievable and is there to challenge your own views will help you make better decisions. They will help your organisation to be consistent and responsive to employees, customers, shareholders, regulators – and to face new challenges.

The pandemic has shown many business people that they were not ready for any uncertainty (although obviously none of us expected anything on this scale) so now is the time to think  about how you might look at the future with better governance. We are all thinking about what comes next, yet we can end up in a rabbit hole of just thinking about the same things. Now is the time when you can find someone to give you the critique and wider picture to help your business survive.

So, get yourself a non-executive director, a mentor or talk more to your accountant or professional advisor. Any of these advisors should hold you accountable and focused on meeting your legal and statutory requirements whilst also helping you see the bigger picture.

As the effects of the pandemic moved swiftly and the lockdown was announced, those businesses with a robust decision-making methodology were able to change and adapt quickly, whilst communicating clearly to employees and customers.

Staffordshire Chambers run a great mentoring scheme with mentors who are running their own businesses, are extremely experienced and are great at challenging your assumptions.  We can help by matching you to an experienced mentor who has the skills and knowledge you need to start you on developing your governance.

Adhering to good corporate governance practices encourages managers to regularly review the firm’s strategy and performance and seek external opinions where necessary. Bringing in external expertise to aid strategic decision-making can add significant benefits. The Chambers’ mentoring programme can help here too.

Staffordshire Chambers is owned and managed by our members, so we have an elected Council, a Board of Directors and local area advisory boards. They all work really had to make sure that the executive team (including me) are challenged and supported to make better informed decisions to reflect what the business community of Staffordshire needs. If you would like to be involved, we will be asking for nominations from members in the next couple of months – or let me know now.

If you would like help with anything discussed here please get in touch by emailing info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

For all enquiries, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002. We also have a weekday daily Twitter hour from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat

Fixed Term Project until 31 March 2021. (extension pending to run until September 2021)

Salary: c £36,000 pa. – dependant on experience

West Midlands International Trade LLP (WMIT) is a joint initiative led by the Chambers of Commerce in the West Midlands including: Greater Birmingham, Black Country, Coventry & Warwickshire, Herefordshire & Worcestershire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

As a regional delivery partner for the Department for International Trade (DIT), WMIT delivers a range of International Trade services to local businesses.

We have also recently secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for a new project, The Enhanced Export Growth Project, to increase the scope of international trade support services offered to businesses in the West Midlands.

Therefore, we are seeking to recruit three Channel Managers to join our existing ERDF project team to support the delivery of this new project.

As a Channel Manager your understanding of the economic landscape within the West Midlands will be essential. Having responsibility for two of the region’s growth hubs you will become an essential additional resource, working in support of growth hub staff to enable effective handling of lower level SME export enquiries, ensuring that non-export ready businesses are meaningfully supported through a range of triage activities and are signposted to other relevant business support.

Within the role you will provide a new, all-inclusive approach to export-focused business support for SMEs large and small, broadening the scope of Growth Hub services and facilitating the identification of smaller SMEs that have High Export Potential to be directed to DIT local services.

You will be expected to work independently, utilising ‘hot desking’ facilities within the regions Chambers of Commerce and Growth Hubs and will maintain regular contact with the Project Manager.

For further information and to download the Job Descriptions and an Application form please go to our website – www.wmchambers.co.uk

Only candidates who complete an application form will be considered.

West Midlands International Trade is an equal opportunity employer. If you are from outside the EEA and do not possess immigration status which allows you to live and work in the UK, we will be unable to progress your application as West Midlands International Trade LLP are unable to provide sponsorship. Therefore, in the recruitment process all candidates are required to provide the necessary right to work information and documentation. Any unsolicited submissions from agencies will be accepted as a direct application from the candidate and no fees will be payable

Application forms must be returned to Julie Galliers, Executive Assistant, West Midlands Chambers of Commerce LLP, by email: j.galliers@wmchambers.co.uk

Closing date: 15th May 2020 @ 5pm

For further information on DIT please refer to:

www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-trade

For further information on West Midlands Chambers of Commerce please refer to: www.wmchambers.co.uk

Sara’s blog: The skills agenda

If we are looking for positives out of the current pandemic situation then I would say that there has never been a better time to take stock of your business and assess exactly what direction you want to take as we gradually move out of lockdown.

The lockdown has been a test for employers, employees and the self-employed.  We had hardly any time to prepare for a new way of working but from what I have witnessed, Staffordshire businesses have showed incredible innovation, agility and determination to adapt to brave new world.

Now there is a great opportunity to assess what skills are needed to capitalise on the upturn in business post Covid-19. It will be survival of the fittest i.e. those who have upskilled and grabbed new opportunities to capitalise on new opportunities.

No doubt you will have seen examples, as I have, of those employees who have really stepped up to the plate and shown qualities of leadership and adaptability not seen previously.

We all need to harness this energy and recognise the dedication of those staff and support them in developing their careers. The Chambers can help you do this through the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub.

The Skills Hub is a multi-million pound European Social Funded project which offers a brokerage service to assess training needs, matches this to provision and then accesses funding grants of up to 48 per cent up to a maximum of £5000, toward the training.

To access the fund businesses, must complete a training needs analysis form with a member of the Skills Hub team. Through the needs analysis they will identify how a business can be improved through specialised training and then help to find and fund relevant courses. Businesses can apply for funding for any bespoke course that is not currently funded elsewhere.

This really is a fantastic opportunity to invest in, and upskill or re-skill, those employees who are going to drive your business forward.

For more information and to find out how you can benefit from the funding businesses should call the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub on 0300 600 1066

For all other Chamber enquiries, you can call 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002. We also have a weekday daily Twitter hour from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat

Micro-grants of up to £200 have been launched today to help not-for-profit creative groups in Stoke-on-Trent share their creativity with people feeling isolated during the Covid-19 Pandemic, as part of #GetCreativeAtHome. 

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has teamed up with Voluntary Arts England to administer the grants, which will be open for application until Monday the 4th of May on the Voluntary Arts website.  

#GetCreativeAtHome is a national creative campaign that is being championed by partners including Arts Council England and the BBC to highlight some of the amazing participatory creative activities that are being developed across the country to help people to express themselves during this time of unprecedented change.

“At this extremely challenging time, we believe creativity is more important than ever; to unite people, support good mental health and wellbeing and maintain vital connections with others.” – Robin Simpson, Voluntary Arts CEO.

Successful applicants will be awarded up to £200 to transform their usual creative community activities into remotely accessible projects, such as live online events, video tutorials, podcasts and posted creativity packs.

Councillor Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “The micro-grants are a fantastic way to support our communities during this pandemic. Not-for-profit creative groups can provide a huge boost to people who feel isolated and those who are struggling with mental health issues. The projects can also help to connect communities at a time when we may feel distant from our friends, family and communities. We’d encourage people to get involved and help our city to come together through creativity.”  

Each of the funded projects will take place from the 10th May to 31st May and will be advertised on the national Get Creative website as well as on the Visit Stoke website. The activities and events will also be promoted across various social media channels using the hashtag #GetCretiveatHome and #MyStokeStory

Micro-grant funding for ‘Get Creative At Home’ in Stoke-on-Trent is aimed specifically at non-for-profit creative groups. However individuals and larger creative and cultural organisations are also invited to join in with this local drive to connect through creativity at this time of crisis.

“If you have the time, the materials and a great idea of how to share your creativity with others, we would love to see you registering your own events on the Get Creative website. Once you’ve registered your activity, let us know about it so we can promote it alongside all of the other local ‘Get Creative At Home’ projects.”  – Nicola Winstanley, West Midlands Development Officer, Voluntary Arts.

To apply for a grant visit www.voluntaryarts.org

To find out more about ‘Get Creative At Home’ visit www.getcreativeuk.com.

For all enquiries contact nicola@vaengland.org.uk or call Nicola on  07748 718 230

I can just about remember a world pre-Covid-19 although time seems to have changed since we all started working form home. Sometimes I am not sure if it is Monday or June……. For the past five weeks the pandemic has taken over our lives as we have had to transition our businesses rapidly to deal with the crisis.

But there are other issues and one familiar shape is looming – namely Brexit.

It may be far from your mind as you deal with survival first but, like all good businesses, it is worth keeping an eye on the future and trying to plan for what it might bring. The team at Staffordshire Chambers is ready to answer your questions and offer guidance on any Brexit issues and to help you find new markets.

One of the great things about chambers is there is one in every town and city in the world and we are using these connections to get some great links and insights. Over the next few weeks and months  Staffordshire Chambers have organised webinars so you can meet your fellow Chamber members across the globe or find out more about trading with a tremendous variety of countries. You can be assured that we will be facilitating Brexit seminars and webinars in the coming months so keep an eye open for some amazing opportunities.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have produced a Brexit Checklist in order to help companies think about how they might be affected – it outlines key areas of operations where firms should assess what could change. The list is pretty comprehensive: workforce; cross-border trade; taxation/insurance; currency/intellectual property/ property/contracts; regulatory compliance/data-protection and EU funding and procurement. It is worth having a look at https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/brexit-hub

Currently, UK companies can send products to the EU without any barriers, as part of the Customs Union. However, once the UK leaves the EU on 31 December 2020, there may be significant changes to the process including increased paperwork and customs compliance obligations which UK firms must meet in order to continue to sell into EU markets. We have expertise on hand to help you through this new way of working and ensure that you have all the information and necessary guidance you need for a smooth transition.

And the brilliant team of international trade advisors based at the Chambers will be running the usual courses on subjects such as documentation, Incoterms, customs procedures, letters of credit and much more.

Full details are on the webpage: https://staffordshirechambers.co.uk/international-trade/

For all other Chamber enquiries, you can call 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002. We also have a weekday daily Twitter hour from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat